Vasser Sullivan and Winward claim Sebring GTD PRO and GTD wins

By | March 17, 2024

Vasser Sullivan Racing took the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac pole position and the GTD PRO win, but it wasn’t that simple. On the final restart, and in less than a lap, Jack Hawksworth battled from third to the lead in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 shared with Ben Barnicoat and Kyle Kirkwood, a fine recovery from a disastrous Rolex 24 that eliminated them. of the race early.

The defending champion had to pass Daniel Juncadella in the No. 3 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Z06 GT3.R and then Daniel Serra in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 in several corners – a run to a 0.121 second margin of victory that left Barnicoat and Kirkwood both averted their eyes and shouted with delight.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Hawksworth said. “These long races you have to do everything perfectly. Everyone has to do their job absolutely perfectly to even have a chance at it in the end. Then you just hope that the cards fall your way. We had a hard day. But the team has made good strides this offseason. We wanted to come and show what we could do, right? This has been quite a recovery.

“Today everyone was perfect. We had that one drive-through early in the race, a wobble there [a crewmember was bumped by the car as it started to leave the pits]. Furthermore, it was brutal all day. The guys in pit lane were incredible all day. Ben and Kyle were absolute monsters out there. Yes, that’s where we ended up fighting. Comes out on top. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone.”

The victory was the team’s first since Watkins Glen last July, and the second endurance racing victory for Lexus. And for the last half hour the pit box was on the edge of their seats.

“It was crazy,” Kirkwood said. “I have never screamed so much about any incident in racing in my life, except probably today. It’s a different feeling to be part of a car when you’re not in it and you’re depending on someone else to do it. In front of us we’re shouting, ‘Come on, Jack!’ Yeah, that was a cool moment for the team, right? Of course the win was great. Then everyone was cheering and shouting. During that last stretch we knew he had to do it there to hold on to the lead. That was probably the moment where we could have won or lost the race.”

Serra, Davide Rigon and James Calado finished second. A late-race fight between Juncadella and Laurin Heinrich in the No. 77 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R sent Juncadella off the track and out of the race, while Heinrich was assessed a drive-through penalty and handed third place to the Iron Lynx Lamborghini team of Mirko Bortolotti, Jordan Pepper and Frank Perera.

The winning ways continue for Winward Racing and its Mercedes AMG GT3 in GTD. Jake Galstad/Motorsports Images

Winward Racing ran a near-flawless race to move from the back of the grid into the lead, controlling most of the race to take its second consecutive victory in GTD, and the third in four races dating back to last season the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Philip Ellis had qualified the No. 57 Mercedes AMG on pole, but the car was moved to the rear due to unapproved sensors on the car. Nevertheless, the team was at the front by the end of the second hour and from there Ellis, Russell Ward and Indy Dontje controlled the race.

“We knew we had the car for it,” Ward said. “We just wanted to keep our heads clear. We started the season in such great shape by winning Daytona. Our goal was really just to get the maximum number of points from this race. This circuit really suits this race car well. The Mercedes-AMG gives you a lot of confidence here. You need it at Sebring: a dangerous race track. Lots of chances to make a mistake. The crew performed flawlessly. No mistakes on their part. Few mistakes on the part of the drivers. Came out on top.”

Winward is playing a decent role after a tough start to last season, and full-timers Ward and Ellis are keen to continue this.

“I think we all have the speed to get where we want to be,” Ellis stated. “We just have to drive clean races and not take too many risks, as we unfortunately sometimes did last year. I think we all learned from the mistakes, not only as drivers, but also as a team. It just grew into a more successful team. I think as long as everyone keeps moving in the same direction, we will be back on top there.”

The No. 47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari 296 GT3 of Roberto Lacorte, Antonio Fuoco and Giorgio Sernagiotto languished in the middle of the race, but did not join them until after sunset. In the closing stages, Fuoco had to get past Elliot Skeer in the No. 120 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R to claim second place and chase Ellis, but fell 0.646 seconds short of following up Cetilar’s 2022 win in the race.

After starting 13th in GTD, Skeer, Adam Adelson and Jan Heylen had the Wright Motorsports Porsche in contention for most of the race, bouncing in front and out as the team’s out-of-order pit stops pushed them toward the middle taken off the field and back. In the end, third place was a nice reward for the hard work of the day.


The story originally appeared on Racer

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